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News Roundup: Diversity Raps, Satellites and Crocs

Diversity Gets a Bad Rap. Literally.

Samsung just released a diversity report. Great. However, for some reason the company created an accompanying video featuring Korean rapper Mad Clown. It’s not good and people were understandably confused.

Have a listen:

New Loons

For the ambitious corners of big tech firms, it’s all about “the next billion” getting online. Google has hot air balloons, Facebook has jumbo jet-sized drones, and now Tela/SpaceX’s Elon Musk is moving in. The maverick entrepreneur plans to send up a network of 700 tiny satellites that would beam down internet access to earth. Apparently the project would be expensive - $1 billion+ - and face a lot of regulatory red tape.

Google looks to be pushing on with their own pie in the sky project after NASA announced the search giant was leasing a former Navy dirigible hangar in Silicon Valley to its subsidiary, Planetary Ventures. Located just a few miles away from Google’s headquarters, the hanger will cost the company $1.16 billion in rent over the initial 60-year lease term and be used for "space and aviation, assembly and testing in the areas of space exploration, aviation, rover/robotics and other emerging technologies."

NSA

The usual dose of NSA headlines

-          UK PM David Cameron has said that the internet should be “an ungoverned space” and companies should remove extreme content from the web. "This is their social responsibility, and we expect them to live up to it."

-          Former UK Home Secretary David Blunkett has come out against tech companies trying to protect their users. “Tech companies who provide encrypted – and therefore secret – communications online are, albeit unwittingly, helping terrorists to co-ordinate genocide and foster fear and instability around the world.”

-          German intelligence service wants hundreds of millions of Euros to buy and exploit zero-day bugs.

-          The EFF is claiming ISPs are stripping users’ email encryption.

-          The US is putting fake cell towers in planes and tracking people with them.

Tech Presents

It’s nice when politicians get along. Russia’s Vladimir Putin may have made a friend in China’s President Xi Jinping after reportedly giving him a YotaPhone. The Russian-made device, known for its second e-Ink screen, went down well, with Xi asking him if the two countries have any cooperation on the mobile. Apparently this political gadget giving is becoming commonplace; Xi has given out ZTE phones in the past, while Obama gave the Queen an iPod.

YotaPhone’s CEO Vladislav Martynov seems quite pleased about the high-profile endorsement. "We're happy to say that we are already seeing keen interest (in the Chinese smartphone market)," he said to China’s state newswire.

Verbatim – Agents, Underground, and Fashion

The big news this week was President Obama wading into the Net Neutrality debate. “I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality,” he said in a statement & video. Ted Cruz’s response was to claim “’Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet.” GigaOm has collected the responses from various parties.

Mozilla’s Firefox browser is celebrating its 10th birthday this week, so the company’s Chief Technology Officer decided to slag off its rivals. When faced with Android or iOS, CTO Andreas Gal claimed, “Right now the user has a choice between one phone where you can’t tell what goes on inside it and another phone where you can’t tell what goes on inside it.” He also called Android Google’s “Agent in your pocket,” and said the user should be “be able to know what is happening to their data and have some influence over it.”

Netsuite is known for its digs at Sage. Last time we talked to NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson he called them ‘a dead company who has lived way too long.’ The company took out a recent advert in the FT that parodies Sage software as train lines on a map that all lead to Netsuite with the tagline, “All Sage Lines Terminate Here.” Sage’s response, coming from managing director Steve Attwell, may have been a bit overthought. "If Sage ran the underground, it wouldn’t be under the ground, it would not have an end of line and there would be no gaps to mind. You would get to your destination quicker, there would be no delays and you would get there with confidence." Right.

Kiera Knightly – a self-confessed technophobe - is starring in a film. It’s called The Imitation Game and because it’s a bit tech-related, it was given a private screening in Silicon Valley. It doesn’t sound like she fit in very well. While talking on Jimmy Kimmel, she referred to Russian billionaire Yuri Milner – who was hosting the screening – as “Some rich tech person called Yuri, who was very nice,” and Sergey Brin as 'Google people' (“also very nice”). She also called out their fashion sense. “They had a lot of hoodies. Hoodies are big in the tech industry, I found. And Crocs; Sergey, who I assume is a very rich man [Net worth: $29 billion] was definitely wearing Crocs.”

Are apps on the decline? Some studies are claiming that people have stopped downloading apps. Marcos Sanchez, VP at analytics company App Annie has some other ideas. “A load of other firms like Deloitte have said things like ‘oh, no more apps are going to happen’ – what a load of shit,” he said. “I’ve heard this all before. The number of apps can and will grow and swell.”

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is back in the press talking about his old company again. "Apple could have had a much bigger share of the smartphone market if it had a larger-screen iPhone for the past three years," he told CNN. "It could have competed better with Samsung." He also said that while he’s not a fan of smartwatches, Apple’s offering “might sell well.”

Tech investor Tim O’Reilly has some thoughts on why Google Glass isn’t taking off. “I think Google wanted to be too cool, and they should’ve said we want to be useful,” O’Reilly told Web Summit conference in Ireland. “Being cool is hard. The history of fashion is littered with failure, but [it's better] if you’re delivering real utility.”

Steve Ballmer yesterday took part in a Reddit AMA. The former Microsoft CEO talked AI, Moore’s Law, Net Neutrality, Software development and his former company making .NET open source.

M&A

Yahoo!’s rumoured purchase of Video start BrightRoll has gone ahead, Apple has acqi-hired the people behind mapping app Pin Drop, Microsoft has acquired Israeli security startup Aorato, Russian giant Mail.run is buying Maps.me, Mavenir Systems now own 4G security startup Stoke, and AppDirect now owns Leftronic.

Windows XPocalypse 2003

After literally years of trying, Microsoft may finally be convincing people to move on from Windows XP. The decade-old OS saw its market share drop in October, with Windows 8 making noticeable gains. Only Windows 7 and Server 2003 for the company to worry about then.

Consumer versions of Windows 7 are no longer being shipped, so it’s a case of get them while stocks last. From now own, 8.1 will be the default OS shipped.

As of today, it’s only 7 months until Windows Server 2003 is officially killed off for good. There’s 24 million odd instances of Windows Server 2003 running in the world, and nearly a fifth of businesses will miss the deadline according to Avanade. Uh-oh.

Hot Cloud

It’s fecking freezing here in merry England. And my heating is pants. [So’s mine. –Ed.] So I for one am a big of a new company called Cloud&Heat. The German Cloud service is planning to use heat-generating servers to keep you toasty at home. You buy and install one of its €12,000 “distributed cloud heaters,” which are full of hard drives and computery things like that, and then you get free heating and internet. Cloud&Heat pay for power and maintenance but avoid all the usual trouble associated with data warehouse costs. And it’s more environmentally friendly. 

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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